Although the Greek islands are not the most usual destination you would think of when making up your mind about where to go for a winter vacation, they’re an option to consider if you’re not a fan of snow or extremely low temperatures.
More and more people are choosing to get rid of rigid winters by checking some of the most popular spots in the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek islands have, in general, perfectly mild weather, and many things you would never dream of doing in winter in other parts of the world.
Several are the activities you can enjoy on the Greek islands during winter. Besides, more low-cost European carriers offer flights to some of the bigger islands once or twice a week, and there are some ferry routes available to the destinations featured below.
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Where to Stay in Greece
We are still working on guides to where to stay in many Greek cities. We currently have guides to:
- Where to Stay in Athens
- The Best Athens Hotels with Acropolis Views
- Where to Stay in Rethymnon, Crete
- Where to Stay in Lindos, Rhodes
If you’re looking for where to stay in a city we haven’t covered yet, we like to use Booking.com. Make sure to book as early as possible. Greece is a popular beach destination, so rooms can sell-out earlier than expected.
What’s the Weather Like in Winter on the Greek Islands
Winters are not chilly, although you might encounter some very cold days. Overall, the average temperature on the islands ranges from 10 °C to 15 °C degrees, with some sunny days reaching even 18 °C on the southernmost island of all, Crete.
The weather is also fairly good in Rhodes and a good part of the Dodecanese, while the islands in the Ionian sea, such as Corfu and Zakynthos enjoy soft winters but are a bit rainier.
Things to Do in Winter on the Greek Islands
The cold season roughly starts early in November, when the last big groups of tourists have completely left the islands. This weather extends well into March and sometimes even early April.
Although ferries reduce their schedules, it’s still possible to get to the islands by sea. Flights bound to bigger islands such as Crete and Corfu have daily routes to and from Athens.
When winter arrives at the Greek islands, it comes with an aura of quietness that the locals truly appreciate. During most of November and part of December, locals love to gather and enjoy the islands without the rush and craziness that tourism brings alone. It’s time for local festivals, music contests, and village celebrations related to traditional food, dances, and even local art.
Once the Christmas holidays are over, locals start getting ready for the upcoming season. Many shops and hotels close their doors to renovate, paint, and refurbish the structures while many restaurant owners and staff enjoy a well-deserved rest. The overall rhythm slows down, yet some people look busier than ever.
Many touristic shops and tour offices close for the season, however, local businesses still operate, sometimes with reduced hours. Prices are often very convenient and although the accommodation offer is not as ample, it’s quite common to find excellent hotel deals.
Popular activities among locals and visitors alike include sightseeing, meeting friends, and exploring. Many ancient sites and most museums have also reduced operating hours, but that comes with smaller fees as well.
When the sun shines on the Greek islands in winter, the weather is extremely pleasant, ideal for hiking and other outdoor activities. Enrolling for Greek lessons, working seasonally on an olive grove, or taking cooking classes can also represent great opportunities to check a different face of Greece during the winter.
Winter Ferries to the Islands
Not all connections remain active once October is over, some islands can be indeed very difficult to reach. Exactly for the same reason, island hopping is a kind of holiday more adequate for spring if you intend to skip the summer on the islands.
In winter, most ferries depart from the port of Piraeus although some of the islands don’t have more than one ferry per day or even per week.
What Islands in Greece are the Best for a Winter Vacation
There’s always something special about each of the hundreds of inhabited Greek islands, some of them are a great summer-only destination, while others allow visitors to explore and have fun no matter the climate.
The following islands are some of the most visited places in Greece in winter and the ones that you should consider when planning a winter holiday in Greece.
Located quite close to Athens, Hydra, Poros, and Aegina are three of the islands you can visit in winter without having to worry about long ferry rides. They are quite close to the Athenian coast and can be a great opportunity for a different kind of scape if you’re spending your winter holidays in Athens.
Hydra is a gem that you shouldn’t miss when considering a scape from Athens. It’s easy to see it in a very short time so you can visit only in a day if you’re looking for a quick taste of the traditional island life.
Another island in the Saronic Gulf worth a visit is Aegina, home to the best-preserved Greek Temple in the country. The Temple of Aphaia is a magnificent classic construction located in a breathtaking location above a pine forest and boasting stunning views not only of the island but also of the whole coast. Aegina is also known for its high-quality pistachios which you should never miss trying during a visit.
Poros, the tiniest of the three, is separated from the Peloponnese just by a narrow strait. It’s home to a pretty gorgeous old town, with a charming port where sailing ships and ferries coming from Athens dock daily.
One of the most popular tours that we recommend departs from Athens’ port of Piraeus and it’s a cruise that visits the three of them in just a day. This three-island tour gives you a glimpse of what the Greek islands can be like also in winter since it can be booked all year round.
Another great Greek destination all year round, Rhodes is a unique gem full of things to do. The island, big enough and home to endless attractions, is not just a summer beach destination.
There are dozens of cultural activities you can do in Rhodes in winter. You can explore the magnificent city of Lindos or venture on a walking tour like this one inside the spectacular Palace of the Grand Masters as well as the rest of the old town.
If you are the explorer type, jump on a car or pick the bus to visit more archaeological sites, remote beaches where nobody goes in winter, and unique tavernas serving the best of the local food.
Although some consider Corfu to be too rainy and close to the continent to be a good winter holiday spot on a Greek island, Corfu is a surprising destination for different reasons.
Starting from the fantastic dishes served and the glorious local wine, Corfu is also home to impressive monasteries over the sea, wonderful fortresses, a magnificent old town, and unique mountain villages that can be better enjoyed when the temperatures go down and the hordes of tourists go home.
The island is also home to many important museums which you can visit also during winter. If you plan to visit Corfu check also this fabulous itinerary?
The biggest of the Greek islands has all it takes to become your favorite winter destination. Days on Crete can get cold in winter, but never as cold as in mainland Greece.
The island, the biggest of all of them, is home to four different unique cities you can visit. Heraklion, the capital, is a perfect place to stay if you are interested in exploring archaeological sites and museums.
For a romantic winter getaway, Rethymnon and Chania have beautiful old towns, a vibrant gastronomic scenario, and plenty of cultural events going on all year round. Finally, the smaller but no less interesting city of Agios Nikolaos, in East Crete, can be a great place to stay in winter in Crete because the area has a very reduced rainfall quantity also in winter.
Crete is also a fantastic place to practice winter sports, despite having mild weather, the island also has high mountains where snow is not rare at all.
Evia is probably the less touristic island in Greece, but it’s precisely this the real reason why Evia has managed to remain unspoiled and authentic in every possible way.
Evia is easy to access from Athens through two bridges crossing the Gulf of Eubea. The island is another favorite destination among locals both for summer and winter vacations. When in Evia, other than visiting the capital, Halkida, try to take some time to discover the cities of Eretria one of the oldest cities in ancient times.
The ruins of Eretria are a great day trip when in Evia. The ruins are known for being the departure point of ships setting out to found new towns in southern Italy.
Another great thing to do in Evia is to visit a winery and enjoy a spa treatment all for the same price! We suggest this unique and relaxing escape to the island from Athens.
Probably one of the most popular destinations in Greece, Naxos is the perfect Cycladic island that combines majestic mountains, unique mountain villages, museums, archaeological sites, pristine beaches, and one-of-a-kind gastronomy… and all of these, all year round!
The island counts with a high number of permanent residents, this makes it a place where you will definitely find restaurants and hotels open all year round.
On the island, do not miss the mountain settlement of Halki, the marble village of Apeiranthos, and the archaeological sites in Sangri and Melanes.
Fans of rock climbing put Kalymnos among one of the best destinations for that sport. Kalymnos, in the Dodecanese, is in fact a fantastic place to explore extreme sports and a serene pace of life. Although it can be hard to reach in the winter, the island of Kalymnos is well-worth the try.
Both aspiring climbers as well as expert ones love to spend the winters in Kalymnos where they can have spectacular mountain walls all to themselves but also enroll in climbing programs that are exclusively open in winter for fans of this extreme sport.
And if you’re not a fan of climbing? It doesn’t matter! Check one more interesting feature about Kalymnos! The island has a long sponge farming tradition it’s home to generations of sponge divers who, in the past, used to harvest and dive to capture a unique variety of sponges that were of utmost quality and exported all over the world.
Another great Greek island to visit is Santorini, open to mass hordes of tourists all year long, but quieter in winter months. Visiting an empty Santorini can be an unforgettable experience to see the island under a different light.
Less overpopulated than in August or July, you’ll be able to experience the picturesque alleys, the museums, and even the lunar landscapes of some of its beaches at a completely different rhythm.
Make some time to explore the archaeological site of Akrotiri, the ruins of Ancient Thira, or the several wineries on the island. In fact, booking a wine tasting tour of Santorini like this one can be an unforgettable journey through the most authentic tastes of Greece.
What to Bring with You for a Greece Trip
We have several Greece packing lists to help you decide what to bring with you to Greece, Rhodes, and Crete (with more on the way)! But here are five things you want to bring with you to any Greek beach vacation!
A Guidebook – While travel blogs are great, we also definitely see the benefit of having a good paper guidebook in hand to refer to in your on-the-ground travel. We own and recommend the Lonely Planet Greece for a great guidebook on the ground.
Sunscreen: Yes, you will want sunscreen in Greece, no matter the time of year. While you can buy it here, I suggest you buy the good stuff from recognizable brands or better yet, buy it online in advance. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen. Who doesn’t love a good solid for liquid swap? Great to keep in your bag without worrying about sunscreen explosions.
Motion sickness pills: Great for ferry rides and bus rides especially on winding roads – I buy these non-drowsy ones. You can also try these natural motion sickness bands which use acupressure to reduce nausea – they actually work pretty well.
Hiking boots or sneakers with good grip: If you’re looking for waterfalls in Greece, you may have to do some hiking to get to them! Be sure to wear some well broken-in hiking boots or at the very least, some grippy sneakers.
A water bottle with a filter. While often, the tap water in Greece is drinkable, there are places where it isn’t. Always ask before drinking the water.
We generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any bad water that could make your trip unpleasant! We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly (literally – 99.999% free of viruses, bacteria, etc.) in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc. – basically everything but the sea itself.
Travel safety items. We think Greece is very safe to travel to, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Stephanie nor I use these.
Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.
More Greece Travel Resources
Headed to Greece? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip.
First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more.
Next, you’ll want to read our all-season Greece packing list.
If you’ll be spending time in Athens, check out our Athens Instagram guide, the best Athens day trips, and our complete Athens hotel guide. We also have Athens safety tips so your trip can be hassle-free. We are currently working on our mega-post of things to do in Athens as well as our itineraries, so stay tuned!
We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.
Finally, Make Sure You Come to Greece with Travel Insurance
I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Greece or anywhere in the world! This is especially true on a waterfall chasing and hiking trip, where you’ll be outdoors and in nature more than back home.
Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Greece is very safe, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe.
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Gabi Ancarola is a translator and travel journalist living in Crete. She regularly writes about the island for several magazines about travel, gastronomy, and hospitality. She has published several travel guides about Greece and runs a local gastronomy tour in Chania. She loves cooking local dishes, taking photos, and driving on the mountain roads of Crete.